Urban Design Thinking
Gentrification is a oositive feedback cycle where the more that the buildings and functions of a neighbourhood move up-market, the more attractive it becomes and this stimulates the market fro more of the same. Gentrification generally has a bad name in the literature because it is defined in terms of the ways markets produce a relentless displacement of the poor. The academic literature on gentrification is somewhat split between those who attribute it primarily to economic or cultural forces. The economic argument sees it as inherent to capitalist property markets - produced by the 'rent gap' between what a property earns in rent and the prospective rent if it were upgraded (Smith 1996). In Jacobs' terms this is a process of removing the rent gap between old and new buildings along with marginal functions and population. The cultural perspective is to see gentrification as largely driven by the demand of middle classes for the lifestyles and amenities of the inner city (Ley 1994). This is in many ways a false dichotomy. The attraction comes primarily from the synergies between density, mix and access that are offered by the inner-city neighbourhoods where property values are low relatively to measures of access and amenity. Neighbourhoods that have become concentrations of poverty often have a high level of formal and functional mix, but the social mix is often low. In such cases the early phases of gentrification can enrich the formal, functional and social mix. The social mix is also part of the bundle of attractions that co-produce gentrification in the first place. It is often pointed out that artists and creative producers comprise the vanguard of gentrification - producing the initial mix, giving the place idenity a creative edge, making it safe for the middle classes. After these early phases gentrifiers often become involved in leading resident resistance to further gentrification; seeking to stem the erasure of social, formal and functional mix. The challenge is to understand the factors that operate as a brake on gentrification and that might prevent the loss of social mix.
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